12 points go to…Jo! I did once live with Jo so perhaps this is as political as the douze points of Eurovision.
It was important to me to end the alphabet on a note of hope, but a ‘zenith’ didn’t feel right as divorce often doesn’t feel like a high point. When Jo suggested ‘zoom’ I was initially unsure what she meant, but then she began to speak about cameras. Having been married to a photographer, my knowledge about lens capability is sketchy but surprisingly thorough for someone who doesn’t own a camera.
The ‘zoom’ of the lens alters gradually throughout the separation and divorce process. When we’re within the world of separation, especially in the early stages, it is like looking at life through a macro lens. The ‘depth of field’ in this lens is narrow and intensely focused. Our entire attention is focused in on this sole element of our life, and all other spheres of life seem blurry. Our conversations, our thoughts, our everything can seem to be focused in on this one life event. It’s a natural course. It doesn’t feel like a life event, it feel like the life event that’s defining your life, so understandably we are blinkered by it.
It’s hard then to engage in the world around. Other people’s problems, and indeed our own other issues, seem trivial in comparison. We unpack the tiny detail of our lives to analyse where it went wrong and try to work out how to avoid this next time. This level of intense focus is ultimately unsustainable. Without stepping away, we’ll never see other things we could focus in on, new opportunities and possibilities that are around too. But for those first weeks, months, maybe even years, our focus is finely honed to the detail of our divorce.
As we begin to zoom out, our wide angle lens incorporates more of the scene. We begin to see the detail in a wider context. Other things begin to happen in our lives, and the lives of others. Sometimes we might swap back to the macro, but gradually we see a bigger picture. We can ask others questions about how they’re doing. Conversations don’t revolve around our circumstances anymore – which if we’re honest is sometimes hard. The focus begins to move back from the life event to a life event, a small but essential distinction.
But wide angle lenses have the potential to make objects appear bigger or smaller than they really are, and sometimes that can happen to us too. Divorce and separation may seem disproportionately large and defining. They might be considered inconsequential, even as they have an impact on our future experiences. Yet as the focus widens out, our experience of divorce and separation should become more in proportion, more part of a bigger picture and less the intense focus of our lives, even if it’s still the main focus point.
The final lens to view through is the long focus lens. With a long focus lens you can look to things much further away, they become clearer, and you build a new image altogether. And divorce is like that. Eventually, the focus has to shift. Macro is too intense and wide angle keeps it in view too often. To look with a long focus lens is to build aspirations, hopes, plans. They don’t involve your ex, because they’re just that. They’re focused on your future. Divorce and separation don’t remain your focus forever. Eventually other points pique your interest and it simply isn’t the biggest thing in the foreground anymore. But this does take time.
Shifting from macro to long focus might mean you miss out accepting the divorce and separation as part of a bigger picture. Ignoring the macro might mean you never engage with the details, only to find they’re highlighted another day years from now. Every focus has its own advantages. Every focus has blind spots too. Each has value in what it brings to the picture.
To start with, seeing anything beyond your collapsing world seems impossible. Gradually it morphs into being part of your life, and one day you find that you’re moving forward. Divorce will always be a part of the past, but it doesn’t get to dictate your future.